Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

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Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by TopHatFox »

I've been looking at the ingredients of basic food items. A lot of them don't seem that difficult to make. So...I'm going to make them! Yay!!

Here's a list of some I've been thinking about. Whether it pays off or not, it's really interesting to think how this stuff is made. The list is as exhaustive as I could think of, but I'm thinking of routinely making the highest ROI stuff only.

Homemade Food Tips:

1. Bread: Buy 100% whole grain flour, olive oil, yeast, and salt. Throw in bread machine. Done. Or knead and throw in oven.
2. Hummus: Buy canned chickpeas or cook from scratch. Throw in Nutribullet with olive oil and spices. Add $Tahini$ if you want.
3. Pasta sauce: Buy canned pureed tomatoes. Throw in Nutribullet with chopped bell peppers, garlic, and spices.
4. Salsa: Buy canned pureed tomatoes. Throw in Nutribullet with distilled white vinegar, chopped bell peppers, garlic, and spices.
5. Peanut or other nut butter: throw raw peanuts in Nutribullet. Seriously. It works.
6. Applesauce: chop up apples and simmer in pan. Cool. Nutribullet. Same with pear sauce.
7. Jam: Buy pectin, fruit juice, and fruit. Heat in saucepan.
7. Sauerkraut: chop up cabbage and stuff in container with brine. Wait.
8. Pickled veggies: chop up and stuff in container with brine.
9. Mustard: ???
10. Soy Sauce: ???
11. Wine: Get grape juice and yeast. Mix. Wait.
12. Beer: Yeah f*ck you. Just buy it.
13. Pasta: Ditto
13. Spirits: ~~~Magic~~~
14. Dried fruit: buy fresh fruit. Place in the sun for a long time. Or in the oven in low heat for forever. Or get a small dehydrator.
15. Frozen fruit and veggies: place fresh produce on sale in appropriate containers in the freezer. Ta da!
16. Smoothies: Nutri.Bullet.
17. Fermented food: containers and waiting and stuff. Kombucha is given birth to by a mother btw.
18. Sprouted Food: Something about humidity and containers and grains. I still haven't figured it out.
19. Baby carrots: Chop them up yourself. Chop chop.
20. Nuts: crack them yourself?
21. Coffee Beans: grind them up and use pour-over cup combined with stainless steel filer
22. Tea: put looseleaf in a metal ball. Or use Mate straw in a cup.
23. Almond Milk: I think this one involves almonds and water in a blender. Then cheesecloth. Meh.

Other Misc. Tips

1. Rice and beans: buy in bulk and variety
2. Produce: buy in season
3. Olive oil: Buy the biggest one. And make sure it's actually olive oil.


Got any other food you like to make?
Last edited by TopHatFox on Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by slsdly »

If you avoid drinking your calories (e.g. smoothies), you will consume less. Plus it is probably better for nutrient absorption.

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by Seppia »

You don't need to start making your own mustard to spend $100 per month, just readjust the percentages of food types in favor of the cheaper ones.
Increase: beans, rice, pasta, soups, seasonal veggies and fruits
Decrease: meat and fish.
Eliminate: pre-made foods
Dw and I were easily spending sub $300 per month living in manhattan and shopping 90% of the times at Whole Foods, and we weren't exactly trying hard

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by FBeyer »

Making bean sprouts is really easy. Put two tablespoons of mung beans in a glass jar.
Two times per day you pour cold water over the beans, shake it well and drain the water.
Store the glass at room temperature and in the dark.
After 3-4 days you have a glass full of bean sprouts.

The reason you want to use mung beans is because you can eat the sprouts raw. Other bean types sprout as well, but they have to be treated before eating.

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by black_son_of_gray »

If you are already eating relatively unprocessed foods, bigger budget gains are made from 1) centering your diet around cheaper staples, and 2) centering your grocery trips around loss-leaders and advertised specials. For most foods without 'value added' (i.e. prepared foods, pre-sliced cheese, pre-cut/mixed vegetables), there really isn't much margin. Think a couple percent - grocery stores aren't making huge profits on your basket of produce, pantry staples, and meats. That said, some things like bread are easy to make and a basic kitchen skill (which pairs well with keeping a couple pounds of flour for SHTF scenario).

If you run a search for something like: "worth it to make your own food", you'll get a huge number of hits from people who break down the cost/effort/results of making many different food items from scratch. Sometimes it's worth it, sometimes not. Probably not for soy sauce.

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I was successful for a period of time only spending $1/day feeding myself on a reasonably healthy diet that consisted of mostly home baked bread and soup. However, this does require a certain amount of marketing and cooking skill, time, kitchen equipment, and gas/electric utility consumption. $2/day allows for a great deal more variety. I would estimate that $4/day combined with skills and tools could afford a person just about any sort of menu options on a cyclical basis. Also, my lowest cash flow option usually involves trading my skills/time in this realm and having somebody else throw down for the cost of ingredients. Never amounts to my highest hourly wage, but I sometimes think it is a fun, creative challenge to try to make something tasty from whatever random remnants I find in another person's refrigerator, or pull off a last minute celebratory dinner party for 16 with a budget of $80.

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by OTCW »

For me, I am not a picky eater, so I just stock up and eat whatever is on sale/cheap at the time and avoid processed /prepared foods as much as possible. It isn't optimizing my costs, but it takes very little time.

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by TopHatFox »

black_son_of_gray wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 7:25 am
1) centering your diet around cheaper staples, and 2) centering your grocery trips around loss-leaders and advertised specials.
I agree on #1. There's a reason why rice and beans are a staple throughout the world. So, in addition to those, that's: oats, grits, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and raisins. Woo.

For #2, I sometimes have trouble determining what is a loss leader and what is an advertised special. Do you just pick up the magazine at the front of the store, then buy the food on sale you'd buy anyway?

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by black_son_of_gray »

I don't know how long you have been routinely shopping for groceries or settled into a particular diet pattern, but it won't take long before you have a running list of "buy-prices" in your head for 90% of the foods you eat. When I look at a flyer or am perusing a grocery store, I know exactly what constitutes a good deal and how rarely the price is at that level. Typically my "buy-price" is met only when a store has the item on sale or is seasonal (e.g. coming into some cheap apples now). Stores will often have a few items within a category on sale, but rotate which one that is. For example, one store I go to always has a sale (~40% off per lb or so) on one cheese (out of the ~30 they carry), and next week it will be different. So I can usually just buy the cheese that is on sale.

Advanced level: When we have gone grocery shopping separately, a game that me and my SO play is to have the other guess how much the grocery trip costs after looking at all the items purchased. Or you can do this while waiting in line at the register together. In variably, we can guess within %10 of the total price. This can give you a more intuitive sense of how much produce really costs: you may know that what broccoli costs per pound, but do you know what 2 lbs of broccoli looks like?

"then buy the food on sale you'd buy anyway"
I'm lucky enough to have ~5 grocery stores within 1 mile of me, so it is easy for me to buy mostly sales and still hash out a varied, interesting diet. I also have learned which places have the lowest prices for things that are rarely on sale. There are only a few few foods "I'd buy anyway", regardless of sales price, unless I am specifically trying out a new recipe verbatim. Learning how dishes work beyond just the recipe provides tremendous flexibility.

After typing all of that, I realized that I spend a little more than $200/month, so I'm not sure how relevant the above is to getting to $100/month. The tighter you squeeze, either 1) the less options you'll have in the grocery store or 2) the more you should think about options outside the grocery store (e.g. gardening, dumpster diving, buying from farmers/bulk sellers??)

Scott 2
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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by Scott 2 »

It's real tough to make this pay out relative to time invested. I did the price book thing, got a still luxurious diet down to $5 a day, $4 a day required eating more rice and beans than I was willing. These days I am easily at $10 a day, it's some of the cheapest time you can buy.

I am a much more well informed consumer from the experience. If hummus is too cheap, for instance, I immediately know they've used the unhealthy oil to make it.

A couple tips in the spirit of the thread:

You can steep non-herbal tea for multiple infusions, and explore the evolving flavor profile.
Popcorn subs in for most snack foods at a savings
You pay for weight and short shelf life, so fresh produce is an expensive treat. Prioritize dried, canned, frozen, then fresh as a last resort.

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by EdithKeeler »

I'm not one to talk too much about reducing food prices given that lately I've been eating out a TON, but sometimes for evaluating the cost of food, look at things like--applesauce. I'm like: why eat applesauce? Just eat an apple. It' turns into "sauce" in my mouth when I chew it.... My aunt recently sent our family a bunch of homemade jam. It's delicious, but i eat jam about 3x a year, if that. (I used to get a box of fancy jams every year from a vendor at Christmas. I used it to make "thumbprint cookies" and brought them to work and Christmas parties and stuff). My mom and I were talking about why my aunt makes jam. It's kind of a hobby, but by the time she buys the ingredients, spends the time, etc. it's not very cost effective when you can buy a jar of jam at the dollar store if you just want a swipe of something sweet on your toast or PB and J. Of course, if you have a blackberry patch, it may make sense to make your own. And if you are just a total jam lover, if jam just rocks your world, then hey, go for it!!

Then again, I LOVE homemade pasta. To me it's far superior than anything I could buy, and I've spent many a happy Saturday afternoon making ravioli and tortellini. For other people, not so much worth it.

I think the biggest money saver is just learn to cook. And don't be afraid to experiment. And buy staples, not "ingredients for the recipe," where you end up with a bottle of siracha because you used a teaspoon in a recipe. Be free to say "I'm not going to use the siracha but I have a bottle of Texas Pete in the pantry, that should work." or "This recipe calls for kale, but cabbage was on sale this week--I'll try it with cabbage instead."

This book is available for free online as a PDF--
She gives recipes that will support $4/day on food (foodstamp allotment). I can vouch for her pierogi recipe. Family loved it... and my cost was much cheaper than hers.

Another resource for ideas for cheap eating is ... peBook.pdf

My favorite cheap and quick eat at home is "pretty much anything on a baked potato." Can be leftover spaghetti sauce, last week's stew, some cheese, whatever.

Oatmeal is also your friend when it comes to cheap eating--morning with milk and sugar, or sprinkled on yogurt with fruit, or use stock and cook it like rice and serve it with chicken or fish.... tons of ideas and so cheap. And better for you than white rice.

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by KevinW »

Sometimes making your own is cheaper, and sometimes it isn't. There is a book "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" about this ( ... B004T4KXMS ), or you can google it.

Sometimes lightly-processed foods are equally cheap, or cheaper, for a producer because they allow them to preserve food at the peak of freshness or use unsightly produce that could not be sold whole. Often these are about the same cost as their whole unprocessed counterparts: canned diced tomatoes, canned tomato puree, peanut butter, mustard, ketchup, dry pasta, frozen berries, frozen spinach, generic white sandwich bread, generic American beer.

AFAICT, the only way to hit $100/person-month without sacrificing nutrition is to derive the majority of calories and protein from bulk beans, grains, and maybe eggs; fat from bulk plant oil; vitamins and carbs from fruit and vegetable at $1/lb or less; omega 3 from canned sardines; and vitamin completeness with either a generic multivitamin, or ongoing tracking of vitamins and selection of fruits and vegetables.

Here is an example meal plan:

oatmeal/porridge of rolled oats, barley, or bulgur with water, raisins and spices
1 hardboiled egg with pepper
1 banana or orange (whatever's cheap this week)

sardine salad sandwich on homemade bread
homemade hummus and crudite vegetable (carrot, zucchini, bell pepper, or whatever's cheap this week)
1 of: apple, peach, or pear (whatever's cheap this week)

rice to match the entree
1 of: lettuce and vegetable salad with homemade dressing; steamed cheap vegetable dressed with olive oil and salt
1 of: split pea stew; chana masala (chickpea-tomato curry); dal (red lentil curry); Thai-style red/yellow/green curry with vegetables and cheap protein (probably tofu, chicken thighs, or ground pork); pasta, tomato sauce, and cheap protein; homemade falafel; Cajun red beans; Feijoada (Brazilian black bean stew) with cheap protein; bean, rice, and chile pepper burritos; frittata or quiche; mujadarra (Middle Eastern style lentils mixed into the rice); koshari (Egyptian style lentils, macaroni, chikpeas, and tomato sauce served over the rice)

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by bryan »

I agree that the sweet (efficient) spot for most people seems to do your own "processing" and cooking of your foods, but not going so far as farming yourself or raising livestock (except perhaps the stuff you want to consume a lot of and is expensive or is hard to get from the market as you want (e.g. tastes good.. fruits, eggs), or if you have connections with small producers directly).

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by Colibri »

Since entering my semi-retirement (going from full time work to 5-10hours/week last year) I was able to steadily decrease my food cost, about 10-15$ /month decrease. One thing I found out is that I buy more real food. I.e : no more oreo cookies, making banana bread from scratch instead. No meat, almost no fish, I don't buy expensive fruits and vegetables anymore like yellow pepper and grapes. Bags of carrots, oignons, apples, potatoes, brocoli, mushrooms, instead. There is no Costco or not much loss leader sales where I live.

It also greatly reduce the amount of recycling I end up with, less trash, Yeah! Buying in bulk and making meals from the bulk items as the main ingredient. Being more creative in the kitchen help a lot and also, realizing that it is just fine to eat peanut+jam sandwich for dinner if I feel like it.

Bon appétit !

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Re: Getting food from $200/mo to $100/mo? Adventures in making your own food!

Post by conwy »

My daily spend, broken up by food-group:

Protein/Grains - Oats - $0.25
Protein/Fat/Legumes - Peanuts - $0.25
Greens - Cabbage/Kale/Etc - $2-3
Carrots - Big discounted bags - $0.50
Chocolate - Order online in bulk - $0.70
Coffee - Instant - $0.25 (approx)
Fruit - Frozen Berries - $1.40
Fish - Sardines - $0.70

Total: $7.05

Probably could do better if I at a bit less or shopped around a bit. But food is a bit of a passion for me, for better or worse.

If I really had to, could probably cut out everything but the oats, peanuts, greens and coffee, and spend $4.

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